My Author Story (Part 2) — When God Told Me Not to Write

This three-week series of sharing my author story, is in answer to Brent King’s question on my Ask Me Anything post: “I would be fascinated by your personal story…what fueled your passion for…writing and your desire to write.” Here is the author-side of that story. (You can read Part 1 here.)

 

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My mom and brother, Nathan.

I thought I wanted to be a speech therapist…

and a writer. (You know, on the side…because it’s so easy.)

I’d grown up watching videos of speech therapists working with my disabled older brother who passed away before I met him. I wanted to do that — to love on babies and teach them to make the right sounds. To somehow find connection with my brother through it.

But it’s not that simple.

I cried myself through my first college class because it didn’t fit the euphoric notions in my imagination. Speech therapy was hard and I realized I didn’t actually want to work with children. I liked children, but maybe not as a focus of my profession. Somehow this realization felt like a betrayal to my older brother.

For two years, I pushed through to see if I’d end up liking it. I didn’t and during those two years I realized how badly I wanted to be a writer. A serious writer.

I’d spend six to eight hours a day in coffee shops writing. (I’m still not sure how I did this with classes and homework.) My junior year, I finally confessed to my dad that I didn’t want to study speech therapy. I wanted to switch to creative writing — a major my school, Biola University, didn’t offer.

“Okay, find a new school with a good program.” What a dad!

I spent weeks looking up creative writing programs at different schools. I was still discovering what it meant to let God lead my life and this search was accompanied by confused prayers. I tried to switch schools, but God closed that door. I tried to switch majors, but He slammed that door too. I thought about quitting school, but my parents closed that door.

I was stuck, and it was God’s fault.

“Fine,” I told Him (not the best attitude.) “I’ll keep studying speech therapy. It’s clear You want me to stay in that major, so I’ll do my best. You’ve got to get me the grades and just don’t forget that I want to be a writer.”

Dad told me simply having a degree was still a huge accomplishment that could open many doors. I only had a year and a half to go anyway. Those years passed slowly and, to my astonishment, a gradual love for certain areas of speech therapy grew inside me. Maybe I did want to be a speech therapist. Meanwhile, I sent my rough draft book out to freelance editors (Not A Time to Die, but the first manuscript I ever completed. No…you’ll never get to see it 😉 ) and learned — again — that I still knew nothing about writing.

The red pen was hard to look at, especially when most of the comments were saying “Delete this character” and “This scene is pointless” (but in a nicer way.) Just as when I went to my first conference, I decided to learn instead of quit…which eventually led to my choice to be a freelance editor (a story for another day.)

IMG_5590In 2009, I graduated like people in the movies do — throwing my cap in the air and tearful goodbyes with the perfect group of friends. I had a diploma and I was free to write! Free to delve into books to my heart’s content! Never mind needing to find a job or a place to live or a way to eat. I’d survive off of paper and pens, thank you very much.

Oh, and God, by the way, I’m not going to graduate school. Nope! Not applying. Not going.

One year later, after a “supposed-to-inspire-and-jumpstart-my-writing-career” trip to England that resulted in more failures than successes, I sat in my first graduate class for speech therapy. In Missouri. People in my hometown called it Misery.

By this point in my spiritual life, I’d been completely shredded and sprinkled in a place called “rock bottom.” I was rediscovering God in a new location without a single acquaintance, continuing my education in something I didn’t love.

The message was clear: He wanted me in speech therapy, not writing.

So again, I took a deep breath and told God, “Okay, I don’t get it, but I’m here. Clearly this is more about obedience than my desires. You want me to get a Master’s Degree in speech therapy. Fine. I’ll do my best, you deal with the grades but…please don’t forget that I love writing.

He didn’t forget. Our God never forgets.

Two months into my master’s program is when I found the idea for A Time to Die. Rather, it found me when God practically drowned me in vision. I’ll be sharing that story — the birth of A Time to Die — next week, which happens to be the one-year anniversary of my being offered a contract with Enclave Publishing (formerly Marcher Lord Press.)

Takeaway:

  • Sometimes to reach our dreams, we need to be patient. Okay, all the time. I learned that God values obedience higher than the accomplishments I could have achieve through my own steps forward.
  • Learn from editing! I’ve been on both sides — having my work shredded and shredding other people’s work. The best response an author can have after receiving an edit back is to study the concepts behind the comments. Study the why behind the suggested changes. Don’t expect the editor to change your book for you, it’s your job to learn how to write better. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
  • Just because God told me it wasn’t the time to write, didn’t mean He wanted me to quit. I fulfilled my end of my spiritual bargain — I did my best in my speech therapy classes…while writing down story ideas on my syllabi or scribbling out book scenes during a boring lecture.

 

Have you ever felt God telling you not to do something you love? (Or at least not yet?)

Or, maybe a more challenging question: Do you ever fear God will tell you to stop doing what you love?

 

 

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About Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She never received her Hogwarts letter, but rest assured she’s no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. She writes about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.
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9 Comments

  1. I do sometimes fear God will someday tell me to stop writing, or make it impossible for me to write so I am forced to focus on other things instead. That’s a sad thought, but I have to remind myself that HE gave me the gift of writing for HIS purposes, and only things that are done for Him will be lasting and beautiful. I am not my own, I am Christ’s. If I was writing for selfish reasons, to feel good about myself or puff myself up, it would be useless and worldly – writing will only be fulfilling when God has tasked me with it for a reason. So I thank Him for this gift, I revel in it, and I remind myself to serve Him and others with it, not myself. Hopefully if/when he ever chooses to redirect my life to something else, I would be joyfully submissive to His will in it!

    • It’s a hard trust to have — that He is gave us the gift of writing and we need to allow him to take it away if He wills.

      You have a great attitude toward writing under God’s leadership. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  2. It is so hard to be patient and wait for God’s time! When I started college, I was talking into majoring in Elementary Education (since everyone including my family and my school counselor said you won’t make any money writing). I made it through six weeks before I broke down and confessed to my dad that I was going to switch majors. Thankfully, God had steered me to a school that offered an excellent writing program, so switching to writing was seamless. I lived those college years in almost an euphoria. I was majoring in writing. This was what I was supposed to do. I’d graduate and be published and everything would be perfect.

    Then I graduated. I came down with a thump when I realized that I had to get a full time job to pay the bills. A full time job landed in my lap only a month after graduation. A very good full time job. I took it, but I still hated it for the first six months because it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to write. I thought I was supposed to be writing. It took months, but I finally admitted to God that He knew best. He had placed me where I needed to be. After that, I stopped having a pity party and started pushing myself to write even if I didn’t have time. I write during my lunch breaks and before bed.

    Like you, I didn’t think I’d go to grad school. When I graduated with my bachelor’s, I thought I’d be getting experience writing and wouldn’t need (or have the money) to go for more education. Once again, God had other plans. Since I have a full time job, I’ve been able to afford grad school and got into the first one I applied.

    I’m still in the waiting portion. I have finished several manuscripts but they either need more editing or have been rejected several times (by several, I mean 16 and counting). I feel deep down that God has called me to be a writer, but I do fear sometimes that God will keep me waiting. I’m not always so good with patience!

    • Wow, thank you for sharing your story, Tricia! You have a lot of perseverance and the fact that you haven’t given up on your dreams or on trusting in God’s plan is a fantastic testament of faith.

      I will be praying for your patience and for your writing. Are you still in graduate school?

      (By the way, the Shalom Edit might be right up your alley if you’re needing more editing.)

  3. This is a beautiful example of how God works in our lives. Your takeaway is more than insightful, it’s inspirational! Three things: 1) One of my best friends graduated from Biola 2) Ashlee Willis lives in Misery – I mean Missouri. 3) We’ll never get to see it?

    It’s encouraging to see how God has worked in your life and how similar (and different) it is to how He has worked in mine.

    • 1.) Hurray for Biola! 😀

      2.) I didn’t know Ashlee Willis lived in Missouri! I’m living in Idaho right now, but maybe the next time hubby and I visit we’ll have to track her down and gush about her book.

      3.) Well…I should never say never. But that first book I wrote is…*shudder*…awful. LOL. I’m waiting for the day I choose to go back to it and see if there’s anything worth salvaging. My younger siblings claim there is, but they’re biased. 😉

      I’d love to hear more of your story someday, Brent.

  4. Yes! A few weeks ago God closed the door for my WIP. I was heartbroken (still am a little bit), and and am trying to trust that He will still let me write this story. Someday. (http://www.melissajtroutman.com/a-sad-farewell-for-now/) In the meantime, I’m trying to find my writer’s footing in the month and a half I have before college starts. Struggling to trust God’s timing for not just my former WIP but also for my other book ideas. My fear is that they won’t be written.

    • What a difficult challenge of faith! I’m praying for you and that you will see His guidance in this. Take joy in the fact you are obeying Him. 🙂 He honors that.

  5. Pingback: My Big Brother Changed My Life. . .And We Never Even Met - Nadine Brandes

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